There is a crisis of confidence in the coin business, I told the breakfast meeting of the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California's 31st annual convention last weekend. I can tell by the letters I receive from readers requesting the name of a "reliable" dealer or an "honest" dealer. There are many, of course, but I can't make recommendations for obvious reasons.
However, this crisis will continue, I said, and government regulation is a possibility unless the coin business is able to regulate itself, to standardize practices and grading, to encourage educational pursuits and, above all, to come up with a code of ethics that all dealers can follow.
Numismatics, in my mind, is a hobby that many have turned into an investment vehicle. Well, if you can make money at your hobby--great, but if you must make money at your hobby, then the entire emphasis changes.
The reaction to my remarks--not entirely original--was quite favorable. Dealers and collectors alike indicated that they'd like to see something done. Perhaps positive movement will come out of all this. We'll see . . . .
Question: I have come across a 25-cent piece of paper currency. It is dated 1845 and signed by Robert G. Walker. On the note is printed Fractional Currency and Columbian note. Could you please tell me something about this?--D.D.
Answer: Fractional currency refers to U.S. paper money printed in denominations of less than $1. These notes were issued from 1862 to 1876, so check the date on yours. They were issued because of hoarding of metal coins during the Civil War and were necessary to help alleviate the coin shortage.
Q: I have two bills. Instead of going into great detail, I am sending a copy of each. Could you tell me the value, if any?--R.N.B.
A: Your bills, 5 shillings and 15 shillings, appear to be Colonial currency. If genuine, they are worth $25 to $75 each.
Q: I have a U.S. gold $1, 1915 San Francisco Pan Pacific Exposition, which has been framed into a small pin. Would it have any collector value?--K.H.
A: Your commercial gold dollar is one of only 15,000 issued. This is a relatively small mintage. Commemorative gold pieces have not been particularly popular, but that might change with the commemorative gold $10 Olympic issue and the upcoming $5 gold Statue of Liberty piece. Even if damaged by being converted to jewelry, your coin has some collector value. That value depends upon the amount of damage. Undamaged, the coin could be worth $100 and up.
Q: My father returned from Germany during World War II with a silver coin bracelet. It has seven silver coins linked together and a simple clasp. Each coin is a 1/2 mark Deutsches Reich. The coins are dated 1906, 1908, 1915 and 1918. Would you please tell me something about the value?--J.R.
A: Your bracelet does not have numismatic value, just silver value, which is determined daily by the spot price of silver. Actually, you might do better with a jeweler or antique dealer than with a coin dealer.
The largest collection of presidential memorabilia mint medals and related Americana ever offered will be auctioned April 12 in conjunction with the Metropolitan New York Coin Convention. The collection formed by David W. Dreyfuss includes an original silver 1801 Thomas Jefferson inaugural medal (pictured), plus pieces from the inaugurations of George Washington through Ronald Reagan. The collection also includes Assay Commission medals, Indian peace medals, presidential medals, military and naval medals, framed prints, posters and the like. The sale will be conducted by Joseph Levine of Alexandria, Va., who helped Dreyfuss assemble his collection, and Auctions by Bowers & Merena. Catalogues, available in March, are $10 from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.
Last week's mention of the Coin Dealer Newsletter prompted a call from its editor, Dennis Baker, requesting that a preferred address be listed. So, if you haven't already contacted the Coin Dealer Newsletter for a subscription, you can do so at: Department CDN, P.O. Box 11099, Torrance, Calif. 90510.
Today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday--The ninth annual Long Beach Numismatic & Philatelic Fall Exposition--with 385 dealers at sold-out booths and quite a few others on the floor--is undoubtedly where the action will be this weekend. The show will feature an auction by Kagins of San Francisco, a free authentication and grading booth, a silver-dollar grading seminar by Alan Hager plus various forums. The show is at the Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call (213) 436-3636.
Feb. 7-9--The 23rd annual Glendale Coin Exposition--featuring a family theme--takes place at Glendale Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale. For information, call (213) 622-6295.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.